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Sources of information for concertina building.


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I have been seriously considering the idea of beginning to build concertinas (still wondering which specific kind, possibly Anglo or Boerekonsertina). Having searched the forums I have found the http://hmi.homewood.net photo essay as well as a broken link to Henrik Müller's photo essay but that is all. I would greatly appreciate if someone had further relevant links or possibly names of books or even dvds etc. I noted on another thread people said to copy an existing concertina.

 

thanks

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This brings to mind the joke of someone asking Colin Dipper "What do I need to do to get ready to make concertinas?" "Prepare to be poor." was the reply.

 

Watching the Pathe film on concertina making (Wheatstone factory scenes) would be a good introduction to what is involved.

 

Better still would be to visit one of the South Africa builders. Koot Brits and Willie van Wyk are both capable South African concertina builders. Some construction information and techniques are hard won and may be proprietary but there are not many craftsman who don't like to show off their work and workshop.

 

You would quickly get an idea of what is involved and whether you would like to further pursue this path. Again: "Prepare to be poor." But that is probably a cost vs. economic return evaluation. The pride and satisfaction of making an instrument may be priceless.

 

Good luck!

 

Greg

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TomB-R: Yes the photo essay at hmi.homewood.net is wonderfully documented, I'm just trying to get as much information as possible to assess the big picture of what the task entails. I was not aware of that kit, thank you I will note that.

 

Greg: Thank you for the tip on the film. Yes that sounds like a good idea, I've been researching to find south african builders. I'm aware its not a gold mine but I think ultimately the profit looks reasonable from what I can see.

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"Greg: Thank you for the tip on the film. Yes that sounds like a good idea, I've been researching to find south african builders. I'm aware its not a gold mine but I think ultimately the profit looks reasonable from what I can see."

I would second Colin's comment. It takes time to learn all the best ways of doing things. i.e. most efficient, and most quality driven. My first full year, I believe I made eight, or ten. If you have a home shop, you will save on rent, but the facility will be too small to have more than one assistant. To make any money you will need to have a large enough shop, at least two assistants/workers working full time. Purchasing the necessary machinery and tools and making the jigs takes time and money. Add insurance, payroll, advertising, parts and materials. It would be very difficult to make a living. I have been able to spend the last eleven years making concertinas because I have a decent teacher's pension, and I love doing this.

Edited by Frank Edgley
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I have been seriously considering the idea of beginning to build concertinas ...

... I noted on another thread people said to copy an existing concertina.

 

 

Have you repaired any concertinas? If not I would strongly recommend this as a first step. Its relatively low risk and you will gain a great deal of insight into the ways concertinas were built. You could consider taking on projects that would usually be seen as too far gone to be worth restoring. That way you can gain experience of regular maintenance tasks like replacing pads and valves, patching bellows, etc and you could then start partial rebuilds of instruments with seriously damaged woodwork or bellows. If you learn to make a good job of making steel reed tongues to replace cheap brass reeds you would be following in the footsteps of firms in London who provided this service in the late 19th century and in to the 20th. If you want to earn some money from concertinas then repairing requires very small capital outlay, and much less workshop space compared with making new instruments. You will still need to invest your time in learning the necessary skills.

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Frank: I see, that's very helpful thank you - It does sound like a difficult job the more advice I get.

 

Theo: No I haven't - but I see now yes that could be a very good way to learn the inner workings etc without diving in at the deep end. thanks for the good tip.

 

Leo: Thats great, thank you I will definitely be studying it all asap.

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I have been seriously considering the idea of beginning to build concertinas ...

... I noted on another thread people said to copy an existing concertina.

 

 

Have you repaired any concertinas? If not I would strongly recommend this as a first step. Its relatively low risk and you will gain a great deal of insight into the ways concertinas were built. You could consider taking on projects that would usually be seen as too far gone to be worth restoring. That way you can gain experience of regular maintenance tasks like replacing pads and valves, patching bellows, etc and you could then start partial rebuilds of instruments with seriously damaged woodwork or bellows. If you learn to make a good job of making steel reed tongues to replace cheap brass reeds you would be following in the footsteps of firms in London who provided this service in the late 19th century and in to the 20th. If you want to earn some money from concertinas then repairing requires very small capital outlay, and much less workshop space compared with making new instruments. You will still need to invest your time in learning the necessary skills.

Good advice. That's the way I started.

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I wasn’t sure if I should say anything, I frequently get emails from people thinking of becoming a ‘concertina maker’… here are my 2 cents as a professional maker.

 

First of all, the poverty thing is kind of unrealistic. I guess it is part of the ‘romance’ around the starving artist “theme” that makes it mandatory to be poor. Successful luthiers make a very decent living, comparable to other professionals. Many of us exceed the given average for professionals with a graduate school level education. There is a catch…

 

There are 3 different types of makers:

 

The first group: the “musical instrument maker/Luthier”. This is a person with a professional education related to the instrument. The typical luthier has a minimum of a Bachelors degree in music, extensive additional education (usually one or more Master degrees) in performance, construction and history of that instrument, advanced knowledge of general acoustics, and at least several years professional experience as a performer and restorer. This combination is very important. It forms the basis of the building process.

 

Most makers continue with additional schooling in technical fields; courses in restoration, CNC programming, refinishing, and a long term apprenticeship before actually starting to build instruments. Based on the biographical information that I have of a few of my colleagues (violin, forte piano, lute/guitar makers), the above time line spans on average 10+ years. Another characteristic of an instrument maker is that they are involved in many aspects of the instrument they make. Most of us also do research on technical aspects and publish frequently in professional periodicals. The majority of makers continue to restore instruments, which is considered to be a necessary part of the continuing learning process.

 

The second category are the so called ‘copiers’. Copiers basically ‘copy’ existing instruments, either from blueprints or from their own measurements. You don’t need any advanced knowledge of the instrument, as long as you are able to copy exactly what you see. It is not uncommon to find that they also copy the mistakes and weak points of the original instrument. The quality of the instrument depends on the workmanship. The ‘knowledge’ part is copied from the original. Copiers often stick with one model. There are many (semi) professional copiers specializing in guitar, harpsichord and also concertina. Note: some luthiers also copy historical instruments. The difference is that they are able to interpret the blueprints/original and can correct issues that have developed over time.

 

The third category are the amateur builders. Although some of them are quite knowledgeable (I know an amateur forte piano maker in the UK who makes beautiful instruments), most of them build out of interest in the instrument. Tools/machines and knowledge are often limited. After all, it is a hobby.

 

When people ask me how to become a musical instrument maker, they actually mean a copier or amateur maker. They want a blueprint with instructions. The most important part of being an instrument maker is the knowledge. Producing the parts is only a minor detail of the whole process.

Everyone can write words, but that does not make you a writer…

 

Wim Wakker

Concertina Connection Inc.

Wakker Concertinas.

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I wasn't sure if I should say anything, I frequently get emails from people thinking of becoming a 'concertina maker'… here are my 2 cents as a professional maker.

 

First of all, the poverty thing is kind of unrealistic. I guess it is part of the 'romance' around the starving artist "theme" that makes it mandatory to be poor. Successful luthiers make a very decent living, comparable to other professionals. Many of us exceed the given average for professionals with a graduate school level education. There is a catch…

 

There are 3 different types of makers:

 

The first group: the "musical instrument maker/Luthier". This is a person with a professional education related to the instrument. The typical luthier has a minimum of a Bachelors degree in music, extensive additional education (usually one or more Master degrees) in performance, construction and history of that instrument, advanced knowledge of general acoustics, and at least several years professional experience as a performer and restorer. This combination is very important. It forms the basis of the building process.

 

Most makers continue with additional schooling in technical fields; courses in restoration, CNC programming, refinishing, and a long term apprenticeship before actually starting to build instruments. Based on the biographical information that I have of a few of my colleagues (violin, forte piano, lute/guitar makers), the above time line spans on average 10+ years. Another characteristic of an instrument maker is that they are involved in many aspects of the instrument they make. Most of us also do research on technical aspects and publish frequently in professional periodicals. The majority of makers continue to restore instruments, which is considered to be a necessary part of the continuing learning process.

 

The second category are the so called 'copiers'. Copiers basically 'copy' existing instruments, either from blueprints or from their own measurements. You don't need any advanced knowledge of the instrument, as long as you are able to copy exactly what you see. It is not uncommon to find that they also copy the mistakes and weak points of the original instrument. The quality of the instrument depends on the workmanship. The 'knowledge' part is copied from the original. Copiers often stick with one model. There are many (semi) professional copiers specializing in guitar, harpsichord and also concertina. Note: some luthiers also copy historical instruments. The difference is that they are able to interpret the blueprints/original and can correct issues that have developed over time.

 

The third category are the amateur builders. Although some of them are quite knowledgeable (I know an amateur forte piano maker in the UK who makes beautiful instruments), most of them build out of interest in the instrument. Tools/machines and knowledge are often limited. After all, it is a hobby.

 

When people ask me how to become a musical instrument maker, they actually mean a copier or amateur maker. They want a blueprint with instructions. The most important part of being an instrument maker is the knowledge. Producing the parts is only a minor detail of the whole process.

Everyone can write words, but that does not make you a writer…

 

Wim Wakker

Concertina Connection Inc.

Wakker Concertinas.

 

 

O dear, seems I and my forebears should not be considered 'makers' as none of us have conformed to Catergory 1 or made a fortune, just a living. :(

 

Geoff

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O dear, seems I and my forebears should not be considered 'makers' as none of us have conformed to Catergory 1 or made a fortune, just a living. :(

 

Geoff

 

 

Kaapenaar has asked repeatedly for information about becoming a concertina maker. I understand he wants to make concertinas with traditional reeds. What I tried to clarify were the generally used descriptions of the different types of instrument makers. I understood that he wants to copy instruments rather than develop from scratch. I hope that my explanation has helped him to focus on what would be within his capabilities.

 

Geoff seems to have missed my point. I was talking about the current situation, not 150 years ago. Back then you could start in a lot of professions without much/any professional education. I am sure you did not do anything too complicated the first year you started working in the family business. You had plenty of time to learn. Kaapenaar will not have that luxury. He will need to perform on a high level right from the start.

 

Your reaction surprised me. I understand now that in the Crabb concertina business training was done in house. However, you must know that even as far back as the late 18th century it was quite common for members of a family business to acquire knowledge from outside, whether through formal education related to the business or an apprenticeship with competitors. Many instrument makers had 1 or more family members trained as professional musicians, which provided them with first hand information needed to improve their instruments.

 

The concept of professional schooling before starting as an independent maker or partner in an existing firm as I described as being common nowadays has always been quite normal, as is with any profession. Just a few examples to illustrate: If we limited it to the UK;

 

in the late 18th century Both James and Thomas, sons of John Broadwood, one of the most successful music businesses in the UK, received a very thorough professional education before becoming partners in the family firm. More recent: John Dipper, Colin and Rosalie’s son has a music degree in addition to training with his parents. The same goes for Nigel Eaton, one of the best hurdy gurdy players of this generation and son of Chris Eaton, renowned hurdy gurdy maker, studied the instrument in the UK and Paris. I can give you dozens of examples of successful instrument makers from all over the world, from the past and present, in many disciplines that follow the same path.

 

Nowadays many people that start in this profession fit the general description I gave. Just like any other normal profession, it requires a lot of schooling if you want to take it seriously. I described the example of a route to instrument maker as ‘typical’, not mandatory. There are exceptions of course. Harry Geuns is one of a few makers that took a different route which included a life time of learning ‘outside’ the formal institutes and many apprenticeships but with the same result.

 

Regarding the financial side…. I guess that comes down to business skills, not concertinas. I hope for Kaapenaar, if he decides to go ahead with this and invests both time and money, that he is successful.

 

Wim Wakker

Concertina Connection Inc.

Wakker Concertinas

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... 150 years ago ... you could start in a lot of professions without much/any professional education.

 

I suppose (for the sake of clarification) we may have a difficulty over semantics here, and the first question should perhaps be "does the making/repairing of musical instruments rank as a profession?" (Like Medicine, the Law, Teaching etc.) Certainly in traditional British Isles parlance it would be deemed a trade (so that Charles Wheatstone's profession might be considered that of Physicist/University Lecturer, and his trade that of Musical Instrument Manufacturer), though perhaps that is not the case elsewhere...

 

If we're talking about the concertina-making trade, I'd have thought the statement more true of most makers today than 150 years ago, when Geoff Crabb's ancestors (and their ilk) had to "serve their time" as cabinet makers (etc.) with formal apprenticeships of 7 years (that were usually from age 14 to 21), following it with the practical experience/informal apprenticeship of working for the then "state of the art" Wheatstone/Louis Lachenal concertina factory.

 

By the way, I speak as someone who gave up a profession to work with instruments, much to the horror of my mother. :blink:

 

 

Edited an errant ic...

Edited by Stephen Chambers
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[i suppose (for the sake of clarification) we may have a difficulty over semantics here, and the first question should perhaps be "does the making/repairing of musical instruments rank as a profession?" (Like Medicicine, the Law, Teaching etc.) Certainly in traditional British Isles parlance it would be deemed a trade (so that Charles Wheatstone's profession might be considered that of Physicist/University Lecturer, and his trade that of Musical Instrument Manufacturer), though perhaps that is not the case elsewhere...

 

If we're talking about the concertina-making trade, I'd have thought the statement more true of most makers today than 150 years ago, when Geoff Crabb's ancestors (and their ilk) had to "serve their time" as cabinet makers (etc.) with formal apprenticeships of 7 years (that were usually from age 14 to 21), following it with the practical experience/informal apprenticeship of working for the then "state of the art" Wheatstone/Louis Lachenal concertina factory.

 

By the way, I speak as someone who gave up a profession to work with instruments, much to the horror of my mother. :blink:

 

I know the UK tradition is a little different from other European countries. Outside the UK there has always been a strong link between artists, science and the music industry. Think of the piano and wind instrument (and even the melophone) industry in France during the 19th century where the industrial ‘Societe d’encouragement’ together with the national music institutes would encourage scientists to get involved with the development of musical instruments. In some countries (e.g. Germany) you still need a ‘masters license’ in your field before you’re allowed to start as an independent maker.

 

Nowadays most university music programs in the world, especially for early instruments, include instrument related technical courses. Not always as thorough as from the dedicated institutes, but enough to get started. I also included these courses when I taught the concertina program.

 

There are a lot of people graduating from the music technical institutes each year (free reed technicians, piano technicians, string instrument makers, etc.). Because of these programs, instrument technology has come a long way since the 19th century for most instruments. It is unfortunate that the concertina industry has always been isolated from the rest of the industry and has not benefited from the developments and knowledge, especially since the early 20th century.

 

That’s why I always advise people who are serious about becoming a maker to start with a normal 4 year program. I don’t understand the problem with this advice…isn’t the normal way to go for most professions...

 

Wim Wakker

Concertina Connection Inc.

Wakker Concertinas

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